Emotions ran high at yesterday’s third Temple Student Government Senate meeting.
It had nothing to do with the Green Fee proposal, or the fact that the Green Fee student support list is now 1,600 signatures strong. Nor did the emotionally charged atmosphere of yesterday’s Senate meeting involve the passing of in support of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act that would increase the affordability of higher education.
The united and impassioned tone of the meeting was a direct result of the fiasco surrounding forthcoming guest speaker and Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders, infamous for his anti-Islamic, right-wing views.
After Muslim Student Association President Monira Gamal-Eldin released a statement expressing her disappointment and concerns about the event, her contact information was published on the Web site of conservative writer and activist David Horowitz. This led to a plethora of hate mail being sent to Gamal-Eldin, enraging her peers, including TSG Senate President Jeff Dempsey.
“Today, I have never been so ashamed to be a Temple student,” the senior political science major said in his opening statement. “The pervasion of hate is the pervasion of hate, end of story.”
He continued, “Just because you can invite a speaker so vile and so contemptible, doesn’t mean you should.”
After Temple College Republicans canceled the event, a series of events led to the event continuing, this time being hosted by Temple University Purpose, a group created “to advocate for justice and equality of oppressed and underrepresented populations,” according to its mission statement.
The ordeal led Eldin and TCR President Barry Scatton to address the Senate and its audience with compassionate speeches.
Scatton apologized on behalf of TCR and himself for any association between his organization a situation that has “caused so much hurt and trauma to the Muslim community on campus and to other students.”
He then condemned the event, as well as Horowitz’s Freedom Center, for the statements made in response to MSA’s statements about the event featuring Wilders. Scatton assured the audience that the Freedom Center’s views do not reflect his or TRC’s views.
Eldin’s moving speech, however, is what appeared to sweep the audience. She spoke about the difference between free speech and Wilders’ speech, citing an example in which he proposes an excise tax on hijabs, the head coverings that some Muslims wear.
“It is my free speech, my personal right to wear this,” Eldin said, fighting tears. “Him saying that we have to have an excise tax, is something that is taking that free speech away from me and anyone else wanting to openly practice their religion.”
Protestors, enraged over Wilders’s event, stood in support of the passing of Bill S09-5, a resolution Condeming the appearance of Geert Wilders, as well as disapproval of TU Purpose.
Before the bill was passed unanimously, Kylie Patterson spoke, also fighting tears.
“As said in the motion picture Spiderman, ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’” she said. “Temple Student Government does not, nor will it ever, support hate speech.”
“Anything that does not benefit the student body as whole, that puts students in danger or that makes students feel insecure on campus is something … that we will not stand for.”
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.